Last Sunday I was lucky enough to tag along to the Women Who Whiskey launch event for the Chicago chapter at Chicago Distilling Company in Logan Square. Organized by Katie Papp (who runs the Chicago food blog Always Hungry Chi) and Shelley Warkentin (a Los Angeles transplant who loves the Chicago food-scene), two friends that love whiskey and were genius enough to get a club going in Chicago, a very whiskey-friendly city.
The Women Who Whiskey idea was born in New York in 2010 when founder Julia Ritz Toffoli was attending graduate school. The idea grew quickly and as her friends, who were also founding members, moved away they brought the idea with them, creating additional chapters in other major cities. It’s been way for ladies to gather, drink together and learn about cocktail culture and history in a fun and easy going setting ever since.
“One of the things that makes Women Who Whiskey special is that it’s for everyone. As long as you’re interested in whiskey and you’re a woman, you’re in. You don’t even need to love whiskey yet, as long as you’re open minded about trying it. There’s no formal membership, no fees, and no mandatory attendance.”
Here are the highlights from the launch:
Chicago Distilling Company is a family owned distillery located in Logan Square founded in 2010 by the DiPrizio family. They have a large, open bar area with a full view of the distillery though a window behind the bar. Bang Bang Pie provided snacks, which were amazing– key lime pie and their very own Pie Fries (twisted pie dough that’s baked crispy and dusted in parmesan and garlic) were highlights.
While we gathered and snacked, we watched a drink-demo by the and learned the proper way to craft some classic cocktails. The first of three cocktails (built, shaken, stirred) we mastered, the Shorty’s Highball, a take on the classic built-drink, named for the distilleries’ Shorty’s White Whiskey. Of course we put this demo into action, each making our own highball.
Taking a break, we filed into the back where the magic happens for a tour and tasting.
All your basic booze starts with basic grains. Corn, rye, barley. The tour walked us though the steps and talked in great detail about the distilling process.
We concluded the tour with a tasting of their very own vodka, white whiskey and gin. The gin was a real stand-out for me, as I am not a gin-drinker. Gin (essentially vodka + botanicals) is generally medicinal in flavor, or most describe pine as a major profile. This comes from the juniper berries, which is actually the only required standard for gin; that the juniper berries be the main component. Other than that, the botanicals can be open to interpretation. After several attempts at their version the winning recipe was created and it is delightfully heavy on the cardamom. It’s different from any other gin I’ve had, with a nice floral spice, the cardamom and juniper play very nicely together. They also have a barrel finished gin, which we incorprated into our gin cocktail demo that followed.
Back out in the tasting room/the bar area we went though two more cocktail lessons: The Barrel Finished Bees Knee’s (gin-based with lemon and a honey-syrup) and the Old Fashioned (whiskey with a generous peel of orange, bitters and simple syrup). Both preparations were classic, it was the distilleries’ own spirits that made the difference.
Overall, a really great event and a very successful launch! There is a big place for a social cocktail club in Chicago such as this one and I am so happy to have been able photograph this group. Katie and Shelly did a great job facilitating and organizing, and Julia even flew out to take part!
Future events are promised– Katie and Shelley are putting together tastings, classes and social happy hours at other fun locations across Chicago.
For more info make sure you check out the Women Who Whiskey website or get in touch with Chicago chapter at
chicago-at-womenwhowhiskey.club and follow them on their Facebook page or sign up for your own brewery tour at Chicago Distilling Company.